OAKLAND, Calif. -- Would this finally be the day? After nine straight losses, quite a few hyped into public spectacles, would the Los Angeles Clippers finally get one over on their bullies? If they did, it’d be the one you’d least expect. No Chris Paul, at Oracle, facing a healthy and rested Golden State Warriors squad.
Occasionally, the Clippers have threatened to upend the fixed dynamic, or at least exact a modicum of revenge. But it’s always fool’s gold, an illusion cast away as quickly as it’s contemplated. The Warriors’ 123-113 win -- their 10th straight victory over a rival that has been long left in the dust -- was just another example.
"We are on a good run against them obviously," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, before adding the kinds of caveats coaches add. Kerr still refers to the Clippers as a "rival," though the matchup continues not to honor that designation.
The continued cruelty Golden State has imposed on their division foe seems like a matter of choice at this point, with the Warriors refusing to ever relinquish their grip.
Thursday’s astounding 50-point third quarter by the Warriors was such a scenario. Golden State was down, faltering, looking ever vulnerable. Then, 50 points within 12 minutes. The scoring came at will, just as winning against the Clippers seems to: at will.
The Clippers dream died violently in this matchup. With 8 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Warriors frustrations begat a significant run. Blake Griffin and Draymond Green tumbled to the floor, resulting in a foul on Green. Green reacted angrily, to put it mildly, as the crowd went wild. He picked up a technical and likely came close to an ejection before redirecting his ire at Kerr.
Kerr said of the exchange, "He was walking away from the ref and I think he was frustrated because he got the technical while walking away. And he came to me and basically said like, 'Is this how you want me to act?'
"It was emotional and it was fiery, but it was Draymond. We laughed about it afterward."
Green offered a different recollection: No recollection. When asked about the exchange with Kerr, Green said, “Did we? We got into a shouting match? I don’t even remember him saying anything to me."
“It was a fun quarter, and obviously there was a lot of emotion with certain calls, techs, nonsense,” Curry said. “It all started with our defense. If you can find emotion and energy that way, things start to turn.”
Not to be upstaged by Durant, Curry tossed in back-to-back 3-pointers of his own. The action was thrilling, and appeared to possibly reach its crescendo when a pocket pass from Curry led to a long dunk from Durant. But there was more in the offing.
As Curry got going, the Clippers were helpless. Though Marreese Speights and Raymond Felton are quality contributors for the Clips, they’re a suboptimal duo for containing Curry off the screen. So Steph dined greedily.
With less than 40 seconds remaining in the quarter, Curry went at the Felton-Speights duo in search of a two-for-one play for Golden State. He found a 3-pointer, plus the foul. The end of the stanza featured sloppiness, saved by brilliance. Jamal Crawford switched onto Curry, who lost the basketball moving backward. With time expiring, he hoisted a well-contested 31-foot, off-balanced bomb that nestled into the net.
A staggering play that ushered in a staggering stat: That 3-pointer meant that the Warriors had just scored 50 in the quarter, their most in any quarter this season, and more than the Western Conference All-Stars had managed in any quarter of that defense-free showcase Sunday night. Curry and Durant had combined for 35 points in the quarter (20 for Curry, 15 for Durant).
The Warriors looked less in sync than their third-quarter barrage may have shown. The first quarter featured two possessions during which Golden State completely fell asleep in transition. In the second quarter, Golden State’s second unit struggled mightily to score and a Clippers spark slowly turned into a conflagration. Green’s three early fouls compounded a bad situation. The Clippers hit an array of high difficulty 3s and generally played with a higher energy level in the first half.
Having outscored the Clippers in the third by a margin of 50-26, Golden State had put the game away. Yet again, Clippers dreams were just that. Like Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown, the game might as well have been just another in a series of well-worn pranks. Obviously this isn't completely the case. The Warriors are working to beat the Clippers so consistently. But after 10 straight against the Clips, they've made victory look more like a habit than a feat.